Last year at WPPI I connected with Ryan Moore Photography, and we’ve been photog buds ever since (and sometimes even workout buddies getting our butts kicked at Nike Training Bootcamp). So when he asked me to second shoot for him at the end of last year I said, “heck yes!” without blinking an eye. And yeah… I am so glad I said yes because not only was it so fun working together… but I got to meet another amazing couple, Kelly + Brian.
Part of the responsibilities as a second shooter is to photograph the groomsmen prep. Typically this consists of beers, sports, and the occasional shot or two as the boys get ready to say goodbye to their bachelor friend. So when I walked up to the hotel room and could already hear trash talk, college basketball, and loud laughter from the outside of the room – I knew I was in for a fun day. And of course the girls side of the party was every bit of fun as they toughed it out in the snow with their snow boots, scarves, and matching mittens.
Did I mention the wedding as at the rustic Byron Colby Barn? It was probably one of my favorite venues to shoot at. And the fat kid in me can’t write this post without reminiscing about the food. The food at this wedding… was by far… the best wedding meal I’ve EVER HAD. Yeah, I said it. It was catered by Smoque, which I’ve been wanting to try for some time after hearing high praises from my college friend Danny Weiss – and all the hype was true. It was so frickin’ good. Kelly + Brian, thanks for an amazing day (and thanks for not feeding us vendor meals and letting us get in on that Smoque action). I’m so glad I had the opportunity to work with you, your friends, and family and I wish you all the best in your new life together! Thanks for having me with you, too Ryan!
Back in November, I was brought on to shoot with Rebecca Peplinksi Photography to photograph wedding details at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Cafe Brauer. Shooting at this incredible location was a first for me – hopefully a first of many. The space was just beautiful, and the details… well I completely understand why a third photographer was brought in strictly to photograph every single one. Everything put together by Tigerlily Events was just perfect. From the centerpieces, to the hors d’oeuvres, to the place settings… this was definitely a dream wedding of mine and I hope it gives inspiration to any future brides planning their weddings. Enjoy!
I get a lot of people asking me what equipment I use, what my favorite lenses are, and what I recommend. I am in no way saying I know it all and everyone should do what I do… but I figured I’d write a little blog sharing what my favorite pieces of equipment are and what’s in my arsenal.
First of all, I bring all of my equipment to every wedding in my Think Take Photo Airport International V2.0 Rolling Camera Bag. It has customizable compartments inside the bag to fit every photographer’s needs. It rolls (thank God because with all of my equipment in there it is HEAVY), and is carry-on size so I never have to worry about checking my camera equipment when flying. I love that I can carry all of my equipment in one easy to move bag rather than carrying multiple bags or pieces around with me all day. Photo credit (below): taken from Think Tank Photo
When I’m actually running around shooting, I usually park this bag in a safe corner of the room and load up my Shootsac Lens Bag with whatever lenses I see fit (depending on the size room, what I’m shooting, lighting situation, etc.). While it does get heavy and puts strain on my back/shoulders carrying all that weight around (each lens weighs 3-7 lbs and I usually have 3 in my bag, plus carrying my camera + lens + flash sometimes) it pays off because I have everything I need in the moment and never need to run back to my bag. For example, if I had the 70-200 f/2.8 on my camera body and a guest asked me to take a photo of them (and the room is small/there isn’t enough space to back up far enough), if I didn’t have my lenses to switch out I would have to run back to my bag to get it. Totally convenient to have my lenses on me at all times, and the shoulder strap actually makes it a little more comfortable and I’ve gotten used to shooting with this bag slung over my body. Photo credit (below): taken from ShootSac
Now to the meat and potatoes. What do I actually fill these bags with? Here we go:
Canon 5d Mark iii: My primary camera. Top of the line, incredible quality, great in low-light. It’ll set your bank account back a little (okay, maybe a lot) but definitely worth working it into your budget.
Canon 5d Mark ii: My backup camera in case anything happens to my Mark iii while on location (God forbid). Also a great camera. It was my primary for a while until I upgraded to the Mark iii. I don’t use it that often anymore but it’s always nice to have a backup in your bag (I recommend ALWAYS keeping a backup camera – you never know what can happen on a shoot)
Canon 135mm f/2.0: Great lens. Honestly, I bought it to fill the long distance range lens spot until I could afford to get the 70-200 f/2.8 IS (which I now rent for every wedding, but will be purchasing this spring before my 2014 wedding season). I use it mostly for wedding ceremonies, sometimes for reception shots. Since I’ve been renting the 70-200 more often though I usually lend this one out to my second shooter to get some tighter shots. I recommend purchasing it as a placeholder until you can add on the 70-200 permanently. Once I do, I’ll probably sell this lens. But here’s the great stuff it’s gotten me so far…
Canon 85mm f/1.2: My FAVORITE portrait lens. I’ve been using this a lot more lately and paired with the Mark iii – it’s incredible. I highly recommend this lens if you’re shooting with a full frame camera body. The bokeh is insane when you shoot wide open, and it helps being able to open up to 1.2 in lower lighting situations, too. Here’s a few samples of shots taken with the 85mm…
Canon 35mm f/1.4: This lens is great for wider shots without distorting around the edges too much. It lets you shoot a little bit more of the environment and surroundings, and gives the photos a little more ambiance feel. It’s also a must have for tight spaces. This is currently the widest lens I own, but I plan on purchasing the 17-40mm f/4 lens this season to be able to shoot a little bit wider when it comes to room and ceremony shots. Here’s a few photos shot with the 35mm…
Canon 50mm f/1.2: This used to be my go-to lens for portraits until I started shooting with the 85mm more. I still think it’s beautiful and use it when I want to get closer to my subjects but don’t have a ton of room, or I use it for details a lot. It’s also sort of my safety lens… If I’m not sure what I’m going to be shooting or what the space is like, I’ll most likely start with my 50mm on my camera body and go from there. It still gets a little of the environment around the subject but also gets closer than the 35mm. Here’s a few samples…
Canon 580ex Flash: Since I specialize in natural light photography, I really only use flash when I absolutely have to (mostly during receptions). I can’t really complain about the 580… it does it’s job when I use it and haven’t had any issues with it.
Canon 420ex Flash: This is sort of my backup flash in case anything happens to my 580 on a shoot. I also use this flash for off-camera lighting at receptions or for certain portraits. It connects easily to my trigger kits and does its job. Here’s a few samples of off-camera lighting I’ve done with the 420…
Calumet Wireless Trigger Kit: see above.
Calument 8′ Flash Light with Flash Bracket: see above.
Vivitar Series +1, +2, +4, +10 Close-Up Macro Filter Set (72mm): I actually really love these filters. They cost me under $20 and shoot beautiful detail shots. Some people use the 100mm Macro Lens, but right now I can’t justify spending $1,000 on a lens that I would only be using for close-up details like rings, shoes, decor, etc… when the macro filters do a great job. I will definitely add the 100mm to my arsenal eventually, but right now it’s got a few other lenses ahead of it in line (70-200mm f/2.8, 17-24mm f/4, and maybe a new flash). Here’s what I’m talking about…
Sanyo Eneloop Rechargeable AA and AAA Batteries
8GB, 16GB, and two 32GB Compact Flash Cards
Four Canon LP-E6 batteries (for Mark iii and Mark ii)
Being that all of my equipment is laid out on the table I had to take the above photo with my phone. The quality difference is killing me but I really wanted to show everything I had laid out at once. Anyway, hopefully this helps anyone looking to venture into the photography world. You’ll also notice that I shoot mostly with prime lenses. While some might argue that it’s not the most convenient style… constantly having to switch out lenses depending on the focal length I want and actually use my legs to zoom in and out (walking) instead of just turing the ring… I’ve found a HUGE quality difference when using prime lenses and I prefer the crispness of my primes. That being said, there’s TONS of other pieces of equipment that I don’t use that others probably find essential, but like I mentioned in the beginning of this blog… this is just how I do it (for now, too. If you read through everything you’ll see that I’m always adding more equipment to my bag and my want list is always growing). If you have any questions on anything, feel free to shoot me an email – I’m always down to chat photog 🙂
With the next few months being my off-season for weddings, I decided to take this time off to travel. Over the next few weeks I’ll be in California, Colorado, and Arizona… keeping it all in the Southwest before heading out to Europe for a mid-year getaway in June! The first trip on the 2014 docket… Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
I had an absolute perfect trip with a few of my girlfriends. Every day was jam packed with fun activities and just enough time for the right amount of relaxation. From riding bikes along the ocean to Muscle Beach, to amazing sushi in Hollywood at Katsuya, to having drinks at The Beverly Wilshire on Rodeo Dr. sitting next to Rev. Run’s daughters, and even accidentally stumbling across a live music venue that we thought was a dueling piano bar. I wouldn’t change a thing. The only regret I have, and this is the ultimate nerd in me… is that we could have found Bolthouse Productions (yes, the place that Heidi Montag worked on The Hills) or that we would have run into Lauren Conrad because I’m a Laguna Beach and The Hills fanatic and could have chatted with LC about K-Cav, Talon, and especially Justin Bobby for hours. Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to run into her… truth and time tells all, right JB? 😉
Special thanks to a few of our friends for providing recommended spots in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and Malibu. I included a list of everything we did in case anyone is looking to take a trip out there and needs some itinerary ideas. I LOVED everything we did, but I put a ** next to a few of my faves.
- Right on Ocean Ave. the view is great. It was across the street from the beach so we could walk to the ocean. It’s also just around the corner from the Santa Monica Promenade (think Chicago Gold Coast shopping), and a bike ride distance to Venice Beach. Very modern, great service, pricey but swanky hotel that was nice to stay at for just one night – shout out to our favorite bellhop TC!
- Food trucks were definitely on my list of things to check out in Cali. Both of these were great. I recommend the carnitas or carne asada tacos at Danny’s. The fish tacos at Boba’s were delish too. The only complaint by my friend… the fish was good but there was too much of it… never a complaint in my book 😉
- This was probably my favorite part of the trip and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Santa Monica for the first time. It was the perfect way to enjoy the 80 degree temperature swing, soak in the ocean view and breeze, and see all that Venice Beach has to offer. We parked our bikes near the skate park and walked the Venice Boardwalk which didn’t disappoint. It was full of interesting characters, handmade crafts, and fantastic people watching. Definitely a must-see.
- After attempting to go to another restaurant that was recommended to us but no longer open, a quick Yelp! search led us to The Sunset Restaurant. It stayed true to its name as we had a perfect view right outside of window of the beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean. We ordered Calamari for the table, which was good. For my main course I got the Seafood Risotto which had a scallop (amazing), shrimp (good), calamari (great), and mussels (I had one bad one in the bunch that kind of ruined my experience). It was in a lobster broth which was good but the risotto was undercooked and a little bit hard. I definitely recommend this place more for the atmosphere than the food.
- This ambiance here was awesome. It was like a house that was turned into a bar/lounge. Imagine having drinks inside a Hollister. When we were standing at the bar I joked about the fact that it felt like there should be tables of folded t-shirts around the corner. Decent cocktails, plenty of areas to sit with your group, a ping pong table, and a chill atmosphere made this a place I was super glad we checked out… but it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to stay all night.
- After seeing this sushi place on the list of recommended places and recognizing the name from The Hills, we definitely had to check it out. Everything was awesome. Ambiance, service, food… loved it. We got a Brussels Sprout Salad and Baked Crab Hand Roll as an appetizer – both were SO GOOD. Honestly, I don’t even like brussels sprouts and this salad was amazing. The sushi was some of the best sushi I’ve had in a long time, too. We got a Rainbow Roll (always a favorite of mine), the Sunset Roll (might have been my favorite), and the Special Katsuya Roll (my least favorite). We also got dessert cocktails which, as expected, hit the spot.
For the past 4 years, my friends and I have gone on local ski/snowboard trips up to Merrimac, WI and Galena, IL in hopes of honing our shredding skills before making the trip out west. Well 2014 is finally the year and the trip out to Colorado is just a few weeks away. So before we hit Breckenridge we went back up to where it all started – Devil’s Head Resort for a warm-up round. While this resort (if you can call it that) holds many unforgettable memories from previous years (multiple Truth or Dare games have been played here and countless amounts of breakfast sausage pizza and french toast sticks have been consumed) I definitely think it’s time we moved on from the hills of Wisconsin to the mountains of Colorado. Thanks for the warmup round, DH. It’s been fun. This month’s moment of the month is dedicated to the Saturday my friends and I spent prepping our snowboarding/ski legs. Gnar.
A few months ago, Stephanie stumbled across my Chicago wedding photography page on Yelp!, realized we had a few mutual friends after looking me up on Facebook, and emailed me before meeting up at a local Starbucks (gosh I love social media and the internet!). We decided do the engagement session where Tim first popped the question… Olive Park. After having to reschedule for for one of the many sub-zero temp days Chicago has seen this winter, we finally got to play along the lakefront a few weeks ago and let me tell you, it was definitely worth the wait.
As I walked toward the entrance to Olive Park, I saw a beautiful, blond haired woman with a huge smile on her face carrying a bag of clothes. Pair that enthusiasm and preparedness with Tim’s “just tell me what to do and I’ll do it” attitude… and you’ve got a recipe for a fun photo shoot, folks. I loved working with these two. They were as playful as they were in love. They owned every pose, every shot, every moment… and Stephanie was even brave enough to sit on the railing – which if she fell, she would have fallen into an ice block ridden freeeeeeezing Lake Michigan. And whenever Tim was giving Steph a hard time, he’d call her “Bradley,” which I thought was adorable. Thanks for such a fun, winter engagement session guys! And Tim, I’m going to hold you to your promise… your August wedding better be a little warmer than this session!
I love a good rush. White water rafting in Colorado, jumping out of a perfectly good plane, zip lining through the mountains, hang-gliding over Wisconsin… I’ve done it all. But this shoot? I was terrified. Carrie + Ryan thought it would be a good idea to ice-skate for part of their winter engagement session. When Carrie brought up the idea to me, without hesitation I said, “YES! I love that idea.” I thought… “Oh it’s perfect… winter engagement session, ice-skating… it’s gonna be super cute.” Then I realized I hadn’t skated in over a decade. And I was going to be making my debut back on the ice with thousands of dollars of equipment strapped to me. Fear set in.
But thanks to ojo Creative, who was also there to shoot video of the session, and Carrie who admitted she was a little nervous as well (no thanks to Ryan though who has played hockey his entire life and looked like a swan just gliding across the ice!) – I laced up my skates and awkwardly “skated” (if you can call it that) around the rink a few times and took some fun photos of the happy couple. And I’m so glad I did because these two were just too cute on the ice. Special thanks to the staff for letting us cut the 1-hour wait line since we were shooting an engagement session!
After we finished up at the ice rink, we played around Millennium Park (where we got yelled at by security twice – oops!) before heading back to Carrie + Ryan’s apartment to warm up by the fireplace. The whole day felt like I was hanging out with good friends… ice skating, playing in the snow, drinking hot cocoa, eating cheese and crackers at their apartment, playing with their dog Coco… just a delightful winter day and I’m so glad Laura + Bill were kind enough to refer me to them! And thanks Carrie for posting this sweet comment, “Jill Tiongco, Ry and I felt like we have known you for years. You are truly talented, it’s clear you love what you do. Thank you for having fun with us today and for capturing those moments. xoxo.” Carrie + Ryan, I pretty much feel the same way. I’m in love with your engagement photos. And you guys. And I can’t wait for the wedding. You guys are the reasons I love what I do.
Once in a while, people remind me how much good there is in the world and it makes me remember how truly kind we can be to one another. I always say I have the best clients – they’re supportive, generous, and never cease to amaze me with their thoughtful words and actions. Well a few days ago, Jena + Anthony proved exactly why I love the people I work with.
For those that haven’t been following my blog/Facebook page, I’ve been running a Vermont Contest for a 2-night stay at Amee Farm. It was such a success and I’m thrilled I was able to offer this to my 2013 clients. Not only was it so exciting to watch the votes tally up and see the leaders fluctuate, but over 600 people voted and my Facebook page received over 400 new fans. It was a tight race that came down to the wire, but Jena + Anthony took the late lead minutes before midnight and finished it out with 175 votes. Jackie + Mark came close with an impressive 170, but it just wasn’t enough to beat their fellow Immaculate Conception alum. All of my couples reached out to their friends and family to vote and I’m so thankful for everyone’s participation and enthusiasm for my first contest ever. But that’s not my favorite part of the story.
Shortly after the contest closed, I emailed Jena + Anthony to let them know they won and inform them of the next steps to book their stay at the lodge. I received the following reply from Anthony:
“Hey Jill, That’s awesome and thank you. However, we want to start 2014 in the right way. Can we give our trip to the married couple, Elyce and Dan? I understand he is in the military and currently fighting in Afghanistan. I read that in a comment. Myself and Jena are huge advocates of supporting our troops and if they accepted the trip, we would be truly honored.”
And with that, I’d like to announce the winners of the 2013 Vermont Contest – ELYCE AND DAN! I am absolutely honored to give this prize to you, and I cannot think of a more deserving couple. Elyce and Dan, on behalf of the JT Photo family, THANK YOU for your dedication, courage, and sacrifice to serve and protect our country. I am so proud to have been a part of your wedding day and I can’t wait for the two of you to enjoy this little getaway together when Dan gets back 🙂 Congratulations and God Bless!
After hearing the news, a tearful Elyce asked me to share this with everyone…
“I wanted to take a minute to express how truly appreciative Dan and I are for Anthony and Jena’s selfless gift. Dan and I were married in April and have not had the opportunity to take a honeymoon. Dan was deployed to Afghanistan a couple months ago. It has been very difficult for us to adjust to this new way of life. I am so proud of the sacrifices and hard work Dan has put into his service for our country.
We are so thankful for the support of our friends and family. We want Anthony and Jena to know that your kindness has touched us in ways that can never be explained. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. This gift will only be topped by Dan’s safe return to us. We hope the New Year brings health and happiness to you and yours!”
Happy New Year! Hopefully everyone had a fantastic time ringing in the new year last night and no one is feeling too hungover today. To kick off the new year, I figured I’d post my personal goals as well – since I posted my business goals yesterday. What better way to start the new year with a little optimism and positivity, right? Have a great day everyone – I’m off to do more celebrating!
14 Goals for 2014
- As always, workout more consistently.
- Cook/eat dinner at home at least 4 times a week.
- Play my guitar more.
- Get that stupid ding on my driver side passenger door fixed.
- Plan a girls night once a month.
- Sing one solo karaoke song.
- Show more patience in everything I do.
- Be a better and more supportive friend, daughter, and sister.
- Get the interior/exterior of my car detailed.
- Continue to play recreational sports year round.
- Plan a family night once a month.
- Go on one adventure-cation.
- Focus on what I HAVE, and not what I want. See the positive in both people and things.
- Backpack through Europe.